Category: audio ramblings

Peachtree Decco Remote – Modification

I recently downsized my home stereo. My old stereo was just getting a bit dated and didn’t have the features I wanted. I started streaming all my music (apple lossless format) with an AppleTV2 and I was looking for the rest to go well with it. Mainly, I was looking for a great digital – analog converter, but without having all the hastle of the stereo to become too big and too complex. So I wanted it to sound great, look good, work well and be simple (read: wife friendly) and not break the bank. After some research and reading a lot of reviews online, I ended up buying a Peachtree Decco (version 1) by Signalpath (on ebay). It is powering my B&W DM301’s (old but great sounding bookshelf speakers, although the impedance is a bit mismatched, the B&W’s are very efficient which makes the stereo a bit loud). My main audio source is the AppleTV 2 via light pipe/optical cable for the cleanest signal path. I’m very happy with the system (although I had to do a few mods to the Decco, which are known to the manufacturer, but I’ll post about them another time).

My biggest issue with the system was the remote control of the Decco. Most reviews mention that it is not very good: the field of reception is very small and in my case, although the battery would test fine, it would run out of power fast. The original remote uses a lithium button cell batter CR2025, which provides 3V to the remote. It’s relatively expensive to replace it and doesn’t last long. I wanted to modify it, so that it would take two AA’s which provide the circuitry with a little bit more current. To make sure that two AA’s would work, I first simply rigged to batteries to the poles of the original remote, which worked well. After this proof of concept, I was sure to not waste my time with completely modifying the remote. I found a remote control from my local electronic recycler (thanx to NERRD), that used 2x AA’s and had a flat face plate that would be easier to modify and was also big enough to fit the circuit board. The exact model of the “surrogate” remote control is Pioneer VXX2866.

Here are some pictures of what I did.

Both remotes (Pioneer VXX2866, Peachtree Decco), side by side, circuitry and buttons in the middle
Original Decco Remote - The circuit board is already modified. I used the part of the Pioneer circuit board, which holds the power terminals in place. It connects to the original Decco circuit board. I also had to drill a little hole right into the center which made room for a screw in the "new" remote. I was lucky that there was a spot that would fit it, althought I had to be very careful not to hit some pretty delicate wires on the board.
I also needed to cut a hole into the rubber mat which holds the buttons.
This is the original IR diode and the new one. I had to extend the new one and guide the leads around another screw pole in the "new" remote.
This is how everything fits into the new remote. I used the original remote face plate to trace the holes that I needed in the modified remote. I used a Dremmel to cut out the holes. Again, a bit dodgy, but the new face plate is still coming.
This shows the screw posts inside the "new" remote. I could have simply cut the middle one out, but I kept it for the sake of stability (my little kids are not too easy on these devices).
This shows only the top pole with the IR diode going around it. Not too pretty, but it works.
The end result (for now). I'm still going to attach a new self adhesive face plate to the newly created remote.

The new remote sits nicely in the hand and has a nice weight to it. The original remote sits funny in the hand (there is actually a little weight in the remote, just because it must have felt weird to be so small and light). Intuitively, I would always hold the original remote upside down (which some people have mentioned online).

I also ended up using another IR diode for the modified remote. Many reviews mentioned that the field of reception was very narrow. I had a look into the Decco amp to see whether the receiving side was maybe too far into the housing and therefor blocked out the signal. It’s not really the case (compared to all my other devices which have great reception). This made me believe that the original IR diode must be relatively small in order to not draw too much power from the small button cell battery. I ended up using a much bigger and stronger diode (from one of the remotes that I took apart). I’m not sure of the exact spec’s of it, but it works great. The width of the field of reception is around 100 degrees now (I can use the remote almost from the side of the Decco amp now), which is exactly what I would expect it to be in the first place.

I hope this helps some of you, who are also annoyed by the original remote. Let me know if you find a better suited “surrogate” remote, maybe even a remote blank that works better. At 0$ so far (I still need to purchase something for the face plate), its been pretty cheap.

Why Vinyl Sucks and You Know It!

“You can buy our latest record on vinyl at our merch booth… of course it comes with a free download of the songs in MP3 format.” Everyone wants to be a little bit of a connoisseur (What the Cuss? Why is it not spelled connaisseur in english?) these days and seems to know exactly that vinyl just sounds the best – only if it comes with the MP3 download though.

I recently sold my player and conquered my inner hipster. It was even a really good vintage model with a mint modern cartridge. All in all a great sounding thingy-ma-jiggy.

But really, who sits down these days, pulls out a great piece of vinyl, puts it on the platter, spins it up, pulls out the brush, cleans it, properly lands the needle in the groove and sinks into the musical sound scape of … whoever-is-big-this-nano-second.

I was just going to let this topic go by without ever saying anything, but it flared up in me again when I read a great article in “Hear the World“, while waiting to see my audiologist. The article was titled “MP3 or hi-fi? Is MP3 really destroying music, or is it the musicians themselves doing it?”. The article argued, that there is certainly nothing wrong with MP3’s (or AAC’s, the much better and newer format), but rather the musicians and producers and the music industry, which drives music to sound worse than ever. And here comes the best quote of the article: “Some high-end audio fans are more interested in mysticism than solid improvements in sound quality.” (Professor Karlheinz Brandenburg) Amen, brother! You hit it on the head.

Analog certainly has much more information than any digital format has (infinitely more in theory). I’m not going to argue that. Vinyl does have some limits though – you have to properly master the music to create a great groove, which BTW is probably what appeals to most people. The real problem is that music is mastered to be as loud as possible and has lost all dynamics, to stick out of the crowd. This has nothing to do with Vinyl or CD’s or MP3’s for that matter. The article puts it like this: “For example, amplify the sound of a bird chirping to the level of a passing truck.”

I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of vinyl records which sound totally amazing on great stereo rigs, but I can’t afford them. Sure a $50 record, on a $1000 player with a $500 cartridge, a $1000 pre-amp, with a nice $2000 amp and $4000 worth of great speakers sure sounds great (don’t forget those $1000 oxygen free pure silver cables). But I can’t afford it, and I’m pretty sure that most of you can’t either, and never actually want to spend this kind of money on a rig. (If I remember correctly n’s principle is that you have to spend 10 times more, to get 10% better sound, which will very quickly break the bank of the average music lover.)

So here is what I did. I figured out how I can consistently get the best sound, without cracks and pops, at the lowest price (I buy quite a few used CD’s at flea markets and even at Value Village). I just can’t beat the sound of a $3 CD vs. a $3 Vinyl record (which is very likely completely junk), with music that I absolutely love, through a half decent stereo. Most of my music is digitized (Apple lossless, or AAC 320kbps for the music that I’m not too fond of) and I use an Apple-TV to stream the music to my stereo. “Light pipe” (optical) to a neat little amp (Peachtree Decco with Tube Pre-Amp) to a great sounding set of speakers (B&W DM302) that don’t break the bank.

Now I can concentrate on just buying great music and enjoy it with the click of a remote. For a second I think about the guy that was rummaging through the used vinyl section at the flea market, just to find out at home that the record is totally wrecked by someone that did not clean it properly in the past and stored it in a sunny spot for decades. Just for a second though, because I almost missed the great lick of the Hammond Organ in Feist’s “Leisure Suite”. Who is enjoying the tunes now?